"Oh, I love playing albums in their entirety. I really love it. You get to throw yourself in the feeling of the album itself rather than skip around and go to different albums or different eras."
Geoff Tate (Source: Supplied)
Who could have known that just weeks after Geoff Tate's last visit to Australia in February 2020, the world as we knew it would irreparably change, with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe and corresponding government restrictions decimating the live music industry for two years? Geoff Tate definitely couldn't have predicted it.
The legendary original singer of Queensrÿche returns to Australia next week with his band. The last time they were here, they took on the iconic 1988 Queensrÿche album, Operation: Mindcrime. This time, they will perform the two classic Queensryche albums in their entirety, Rage For Order and Empire. The latter was their fourth album and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020. This tour was pushed back for obvious reasons, but it's been made extra special with the inclusion of Rage For Order being played front-to-back, too.
Rage For Order is a unique record: released in 1986, it was more progressive than the band's previous releases, with a layered and complex musical structure that employed a two-guitar approach but also brought keyboards forward in the mix. Lyrically, the album explored social/personal, political and technological themes, highlighting the dangers of artificial intelligence and government intrusion. The album features classic songs Walk In The Shadows, and I Dream In Infrared and contains this writer's favourite Queensrÿche track, Neue Regel.
Empire, meanwhile, officially catapulted the previously underground heavy metal into the mainstream. The album remains the band's most successful release, reaching triple-platinum status and the primary single, the power ballad Silent Lucidity, reached #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Silent Lucidity was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
"Oh, I love playing albums in their entirety. I really love it. You get to throw yourself in the feeling of the album itself rather than skip around and go to different albums or different eras, you know," Tate says from a taxi in Rio de Janeiro.
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When the tour began, performing the Rage For Order and Empire tracks on the same night was challenging. "It wasn't easy when we first started touring," he admits, "But now I'm used to it, and I enjoy it. It's incredible. For one, I get to play every song on the album, which I never got to do before [when the albums were initially released]."
He adds, "Because typically, when you release an album, you have a couple of songs from that album in your setlist that you're usually playing, so you never get to play all the songs. This is a wonderful way to really explore the album, and I'm very pleased to be able to bring it to Australia."
During the Operation: Mindcrime anniversary tour in 2020, Tate's daughter Emily joined the band on stage for a rendition of the album track Suite Sister Mary. "My daughter, oh my god," Tate exclaims with delight, recalling the moment when she announced that she was working on her debut album.
Emily is currently the vocalist in the band Till Death Do Us Part. "She surprised me one day with her very first album. I wasn't even aware she was doing it! She kind of gave it to me and said, 'Here's my new album.' I was like, 'what, you made an album? You didn't even talk about it or consult me about it.'"
"But, listening to it, she didn't need any help at all. Her first effort was really great. And now she's a doing second album, which is finished, and it just hasn't been released yet. I'm very, very excited for the world to hear that." He continues, "She's actually incredibly consistent with her performances, which is amazing. A lot of singers aren't, you know, and every night she just nails it time and time again. So, yeah, I'm very, very happy she has that going for her."
In 1982, Tate joined The Mob, which would become Queensrÿche, and the band independently released the self-titled EP, which featured the monstrous tracks Queen Of The Reich and The Lady Wore Black. In the earliest days of Queensrÿche, Tate's four-octave vocal range was frequently pushed to the brink, with his high wails now legendary amongst progressive metal fans.
"I studied opera growing up," he says about the vibrato that's only strengthened over time. "And so, I suppose I have a lot of those tendencies in my delivery and my presentation, so yeah, I think it's something I've trained myself to do."
In an interview with That Fuzzing Rock Show last year, and transcribed by Blabbermouth, the singer said about keeping his voice in shape: "Practice, honestly [laughs]. Just keeping up with it. It's something that you have to keep using when you're a singer. And I think as a musician in general — if you don't practice, you get slow, and you get out of shape. So you have to keep up with it every day. That's pretty much what I do. I try to live a moderate lifestyle, with, of course, some exceptions."
Last year, Tate underwent open heart surgery. "Oh, I feel great," Tate says now, months after the surgery took place. He confirms, "I can't believe how much better I feel, actually. I feel like I'm in my mid-30s, or something like that physically, really strong and very happy that I live in a time the 21st century where water and medicine can do what they do."
Discussing the "eye-opening experience" he had with Heavy Magazine, he remarked, "Well, all my life, I'd been very fortunate to be very healthy until I wasn't. And all of a sudden, I needed to have open-heart surgery, which I had in June. And I'd never been in the hospital before. So, yeah, it was quite an eye-opening experience for me to experience that part of… I don't know how to explain it, really."
He added, "It just wiped me out for a couple of months. I was in pretty bad shape for a while there. But I had a fairly quick recovery. It's been six or seven months, and I feel a hundred per cent better. I feel strong, and I feel like I'm in my late 30s. Before, I was having a hard time walking up a flight of stairs. Now I'm running up the stairs — no problem."
And if you've seen him on stage lately, he doesn't sound like someone who's recently experienced significant surgery.
Geoff Tate is playing three shows in Australia next week. His promoters say that these shows will never happen again, so if you want to hear some of these old-school Queensrÿche songs, make sure you show up.
February 2023 Rage For Order & Empire Australian Tour Dates
Wednesday 8 February - Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
Thursday 9 February - Manning Bar, Sydney
Friday 10 February - The Gov, Adelaide
Tickets are available via Hardline Media.